Kolkata to Ranchi (Part2)
October 08, 2016
Kolkata to Ranchi (Day1)
Start Time from Kolkata : 0530 hrs;
Arrival Time at Ranchi : 1500 hrs;
Distance : 429 Km
Our plan was to leave as early as possible. But leaving behind a household, is always time taking, making sure that all windows are locked, the mains turned off, the taps are shut, ... etc. All off that took more time than anticipated. Further October 08, being Mahasaptami, good percentage of Kolkata population were out on the streets pandal-hoping at 0530 am. I guess they had been at it the whole night … what stamina and enthusiasm! No wonder Durga Puja in Kolkata means a cultural transformation. Durga Puja nowadays, is a highly commercialized event with fair amount of technology being put to use in many places. The entire population anticipatedly awaits these 5 days of the year. Entire business and commerce in the state is structured around this event, and it is during these 5 days when the whole city shuts down to celebrate. Its a phenomenon to be experienced. For us, on the contrary, Durga Puja is a good time to step away from Kolkata, away from the frenzy and pollution.
Thus our exit from Kolkata started off on a cautious note. Any other day at this hour the roads would have been absolutely empty, except for the stray dogs giving you a warm warning growl. This day was different, there were people every where.
We however were in for a rude shock!.... as we hit Alipore (near the Turf View / Race course junction) on our way to get past Vidyasagr setu and on to Kona Expressway, we hit bumper to bumper traffic. It was a complete logjam due to the early morning rush to Babughat for the holy dip in Ganges and the ritual of bathing the Kala-Bou. On Mahasaptami day a small banana tree is taken to the river Ganga, and given a ceremonial bath as part of the Durga Puja ritual. The tree is then draped in a white saree with red border, with some sindur (vermillion powder) applied on its leaves. Thereafter, the tree is kept on the right side of the idol of Ganesh, implying that she is the bride of Lord Ganesh.
We lost one precious hour sitting on the crowded road moving at the rate of 50 feet per minute. This bumper to bumper traffic jam was over a 1 km stretch. Slowly and gradually we crossed the snag spot. Once on Vidyasagar Setu, the streets were relatively clear and the traffic began to move at its the normal pace.
There are 4 or 5 options in terms of the road route that one can take to reach Ranchi. We chose Durgapur – Raghunatpur – Purulia – Chas More –Jhalda - Seelly – Tatisilwai – Ranchi route after a lot of deliberation. We decided on this route keeping the scenic beauty, and the fact that we had a fair idea of the Raghunatpur - Purulia stretch, which was the major component of the drive.
The road condition was by and large smooth, and the drive was on expected lines. No hiccups.
|Jharkhand Welcome Arch @ Chas More
The route from Chas More to Tatisilwai is absolutely stunning, with hills, forests and paddy cultivation. The road cuts through the hilly terrain intersecting the railway tracks all along the way, its like a picture postcard setting. In my childhood we often rode the train to Howrah from Ranchi, and went past Namkum, Tatisilwai, Gautam Dhara (Jonah), Muri stations. This section always fascinated me, especially the hilly terrain where the train engine really struggled to pull through.
|The terrain within Jharkhand (Chas More to Tatisilwai)
Road conditions are fairly good, it is not a double lane highway. In fact quite a narrow highway, but very smooth and well maintained. My concern on these roads are the village domestic pets (Hen, Ducks, Goats, Pigs & Cow) who roam the highway as if their razing ground. Steering clear of these creatures and the speed breakers that appear unannounced is perhaps the biggest challenge in driving.
|Un-spoilt charm - In Rural India houses are built on the highway. The highway transforms into a living room extension, whenever the need arises.
Once we went past Tatisilwai, old memories flashed through my mind. The 1971 war broke out soon after we arrived into Ranchi, the POW camp at Namkum, biking to school, playing cricket matches across the city, loitering around Firayalals, and the first experience of bunking school to watch a movie…. Gambler.
Ranchi has been very important in my life, because it is here that a significant portion of my childhood (high school) days was spent and it is here that we made some life long friends.
Every nook and corner of the city has a story to reflect upon.
|Busy thoroughfare - close to Muri
|Crossing the hills on Muri - Tatisilwai section
Our stay at Ranchi Club was as per expectation. The plan was to spend the evening with my school–mate Anil Savanur. Unfortunately due to Durga Puja traffic restrictions at Ranchi, it was’nt possible to meet Anil.
Being the first day in our expedition, it was important to get as much rest as possible to be ready for another grueling drive the very next day.